Reorganization fever

The Trump administration's reorganization plan could be a catalyst for substantive change.

Org Chart Stock Art - Shutterstock
 

In March, President Donald Trump issued his executive order on reorganizing the federal government. On April 12, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled OMB memo M-17-22 to both provide guidance on implementing the president's plan and replace the civilian hiring freeze with a plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce.

The OMB guidance aims to create a lean, accountable and more efficient government and focuses on both "crosscutting" and agency-specific reforms. The focus is on eliminating unnecessary activities, streamlining needed activities, improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness, and improving workforce performance and accountability.

This is not the first attempt to restructure government, nor will it be the last. Federal employees have vivid memories of past reform successes and failures.

We should be encouraged that the OMB memo steers clear of across-the-board funding reductions and hiring freezes. Arbitrary cuts just don't work; they starve everything slowly. Instead, the OMB plan aims to take on the hard decisions on what to stop and what needs to change. It is undeniable that there are still too many antiquated processes in government that desperately need to be replaced by modern business practices.

We should also be glad that the memo directs agencies to focus on their core mission and the work that must be done by government personnel. Frankly, there are some agencies that should not be in the business of IT operations. There are outstanding commercial providers of IT, HR services, financial support services, logistics, etc., that should be relied upon by government agencies, just like leading private sector firms do.

But since this is not anybody's first reorganization rodeo, it's worth reviewing what works and doesn't, so that agencies can avoid the pitfalls of the past and aim to succeed.

Start with the end in mind. As Simon Sinek tells us in his book, "Start With Why", outcomes matter. We often spend too much time on the "what" (the IT system or the current way of doing business) and not enough time on the "why" (the outcome we want to achieve).

Avoid "ivory tower syndrome." Significant reform efforts rarely stick when the plan is hatched by a small group of "experts" working in isolation. These efforts often miss things that matter, are greeted with suspicion and become easy to denigrate, or at least outlast.

Address "status quo thinking." Similarly, if reorganization plans are developed solely by those currently doing the work, it becomes very hard to step out of our collective comfort zone and truly think differently. Often, success in the way work is currently done blurs our vision of what's possible.

The best of both worlds. Reform efforts that thrive use a combination of external ideas and pressure, coupled with the involvement of the people who must own the implementation and are motivated for its success. Without both of these forces, change fails to reach far enough and fails to stick. There is an opportunity for efforts like the Office of American Innovation to help provide this external push.

It is about jobs. If a reorganization is viewed as a thinly veiled effort to eliminate jobs, rather than to improve outcomes, then language around ideas like "reform" will be viewed as disingenuous at best. At the same time, we must face the fact that savings often result from the streamlining of labor-intensive processes and consequently jobs will be eliminated. Ultimately, the workforce must be aligned with the work. So be honest and up-front about this fact and work hard to minimize adverse impacts on people through placement programs, retraining and buyouts.

Aim high. The government is faced with an opportunity to make big decisions, to use the OMB memo as a "burning platform" to encourage substantive change. Aim high and seize this opportunity. By taking a broader view on reorganization, IT modernization can move away from just replacing an old box with a new box, or replacing an old system with a new system, and instead encourage agencies to focus on modernizing processes and leveraging IT to deliver more effective mission results -- providing the freedom to think differently and reinvent how work gets done, rather than just adding new technology to an old process.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.